About The Doe Family Foundation

The Doe Family Foundation was established in 2010 to honor the philanthropic legacy of Shirley B. and Charles F. Doe.

The Foundation is committed to helping the homeless and low-income by making grants to charities that feed, clothe, house and/or provide educational and vocational opportunities to those in need.

The Foundation is especially interested in working with charities that provide relief in the Greater New England area.


Board of Directors:

Deborah Wamsher                             Barbara Doe                                    William Doe
Dana Doe
Charles F. Doe, Jr.                        Amy D. Noordzij


Charles F. Doe, at 79; Philanthropist founded Ninety Nine Restaurant Chain

Author: Marquard, Bryan

During the Depression, Charlie Doe and his mother would ride the train into Boston to dispense hope.

"She used to put silver dollars in his hand, and they'd walk around and hand out money to people who looked worse off," his son Dana said yesterday. "A dollar in those days was quite a large sum. That experience made him just that much more giving for his entire life."

As a restaurateur and a philanthropist, Mr. Doe spent decades helping others improve their lives. From a single Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub in Boston with seven workers, he built a chain that has grown to 111 locations and 6,500 employees around the Northeast. From offering a few homeless men free meals and a place to sleep in the back of his first restaurant, he became the Pine Street Inn's largest corporate benefactor, giving the shelter $2.6 million in funds, food, and volunteer time.

Mr. Doe’s business mission statement was simply "we treat people right."

"He's an icon in the industry," said Peter Christie, president and chief executive of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. "He was a very principled man who wanted to give good food at an affordable price to people he cared about his customers and he treated his employees right. And he always saved a little more to help someone else so that their life might be better, so that they in turn might be able to pass it on."

Born in Watertown, Charles F. Doe was the youngest of six children and grew up in a family already in the restaurant business. His family ran Patten's Restaurant on Court Street in Boston. In 1952, he struck out on his own, opening a restaurant

"My mother found a horseshoe, and they decided to put it there for good luck to keep the luck in," said another son, William.

Pioneering what became known as casual dining, Mr. Doe's string of restaurants expanded to the suburbs and then other New England states. In recent years, it has spread into New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

The chain, which became part of O'Charley's Inc. a few years ago, prospered in part because of Mr. Doe's emphasis on retaining workers, Christie said. "Our industry is known for turnover," he said, "but not the Ninety Nine."

Although recipients of Mr. Doe's giving included organizations from his high school alma mater, Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H., to Habitat for Humanity in Florida, from the restaurant association's education foundation to the Boys and Girls Clubs in New England, he concentrated much of his time and resources on the Pine Street Inn.

The inspiration came from Mr. Doe's past. He used to tell people that an old friend, an alcoholic, had died bereft in the streets.

At his first restaurant, Mr. Doe gave a few homeless men food at the end of the evening and offered them shelter inside after closing, particularly if the temperature was dropping.


Mr. Doe first offered to help the Pine Street Inn in 1980, said Lyndia Downie, president of Pine Street Inn. He wanted to raise money and feed the inn's residents once a month, and he had a plan to sell heart-shaped raffle tickets encouraging restaurant customers to have a heart for the Pine Street Inn. The inn's workers thought he might raise $500. Mr. Doe raised $5,000 the first year.

As the restaurant chain grew, so did the donations. Last year, raffle tickets sold at restaurants for Red Sox tickets raised $50,000, in addition to money collected through other fund-raisers.

He gave more than money. Mr. Doe went to the inn with crews from his restaurants to serve meals the first Tuesday of each month and flipped burgers at cookouts each July and August. Downie said a Ninety Nine crew was coming in last night.

"He could have just written a check," William Doe said. "A real man is a someone who can go in there and prepare the food and serve the food and bring in others with the financial means to help out. He truthfully enjoyed going in there with my mother and their friends and serving the people. If I can ever be a tenth of the man he was, I'll be a success."

Downie said a former inn resident named Ralph was part of the small flock Mr. Doe had tended to decades ago.

"Ralph said to me he was convinced that Charlie saved his life, particularly on those freezing cold nights," Downie said. "No matter what kind of shape Ralph was in, Charlie would let him sleep in the back of the restaurant."

Through the years, Mr. Doe helped the inn expand its kitchen and start a food service training program. "All graduates have my personal promise that there is a job waiting for them at Ninety Nine Restaurants," Mr. Doe told The Boston Globe in 1995.

Of late, he also helped the inn build affordable housing.

"A few years ago, Charlie approached me," said Downie. "He said, `Can you find me a building?' So we found a very nice building on Parker Hill Avenue, over in Mission Hill. Charlie gave us a gift so we could buy the property." 

Mr. Doe, she said, backed up his donations with the simple gift of his time. Even after he retired in the early 1990s, he would stop by unannounced, sit in the inn's lobby with homeless men, and ask each one about his life.

"It's not his achievements in business that live on with our family, it's really how he lived his life," said his son Charles Jr. "He just had a huge heart and was so giving to others. He was probably the happiest when he was doing things for other people.